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Finishing Flexibility

March 1999
The pressure of on-demand finishing is not for the faint of heart. Still, in all the hoopla over print-on-demand output and marketing, little attention is showered on the specialized bindery demands that help realize on-demand's full potential.


Ask Claude Monette, president and COO of Thebault DI—the digital printing arm of L.P. Thebault—what struggles his operation finds in the vast array of on-demand finishing combinations it must execute daily and Monette will offer a plethora of thoughts.

"Typically, the struggles of finishing in an on-demand printing environment are with the seemingly endless finishing combinations that on-demand products lend themselves to—from a simple trim-and-pack job to a customized diecut, embossed and personalized print product. Each presents their own set of unique challenges and time demands," Monette explains.

"For on-demand finishing, we deal with an enormously diversified customer base. We combine many digital services under one roof and so, logically, our finishing effort becomes a full-service bindery for many complex applications," he continues. "As an on-demand printer, we are constantly looking for finishing equipment that can deliver high quality saddlestiching, scoring, trimming, saddle-wire binding and more without cracking, scuffing or marking our toner-based products. It's a real challenge."

Obviously, an on-demand printer such as Thebault DI—which relies on Agfa Chromapress technology—must be able to assure customers that deadline-sensitive print jobs will be produced on time. After all, there's little advantage to digital color output if a job cannot be finished quickly.

As a result, in-house finishing capabilities are necessary for an on-demand printing operation, which must decide if in-line or off-line finishing, or more commonly a combination of the two, will bolster its digital printing effort with enough postpress power.

The benefits of in-line finishing include high set integrity, as well as a streamlined production path.

On the other hand, off-line finishing allows a digital output device to print at full-rated speeds, as finishing is done several feet away from point of output.

Whether in-line or off-line, the need to have automated finishing capabilities in the on-demand printing environment is critical. A fully functioning in-house bindery dedicated to on-demand output is the necessary final link in a production cycle that incudes all the glamour of variable data printing and customized, digital color output.

Digital Demands
"As digital printing enters the mainstream of publication and commercial printing, many of the operational paradigms of finishing need to be reexamined both by print providers and equipment vendors," contends Mark Fleming, president of Naperville, IL-based Strategies on Demand, a marketing, financial and operations consulting firm catering to digital print providers.


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